Monday 13 June 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #35 The Ranscombe Loop 13th June 2022

I took myself out for a walk just before lunchtime and headed up to the end of the road to get myself onto the Ranscombe loop.  It started even before the underpass tunnel with the first bramble clump leaping with life.  Dozens of small shiny Dolichopodids zipped over the leaves but did not seem to engage in any of the fine dance moves of their larger cousin Poecilobothrus nobilitatus.  There were lots of Honey Bees in attendance and several striking Tachinids that I think I now recognise (thanks to Phil’s sleuthing) as Blepharipa pratensis which parasitize the invasive Gypsy moth.  To me they always look on guard and ready to pounce, the wing bases look orangey (but that is the colour underneath) and they have obviously white feet.  I am now seeing them wherever I go around here and I believe Phil has had similar encounters north of the Thames.

 Blepharipa pratensis 

 Blepharipa pratensis 


Anyway, once through the first section of wood I set about walking down the CTRL to look for the Bee Orchids.  Unlike last year where there were hundreds, I only found a few and many were well over but as usual they are a joy to see close up.  Pyramidal Orchids were pushing through the herbage and I found one Common Spotted too.  The first Meadow Browns were on the wing and Small Blues were seen dancing over a bramble before returning to lower flowers while a Large Skipper was the only other species seen here. 

Bee Orchids

Meadow Cranesbill

Pyramidal Orchid

Large Skipper

Meadow Brown

Small Blue

Small Blue

Horseshoe Vetch

Xanthogramma pedissequum was the pick of the common Hoverflies although a Merodon equestris is always good to find.  There were lots of Roesel's and Dark Bush Crickets and Meadow and Field Grasshopperlings and a little Grass Moth (Eucosma cana) posed for me.

Merodon equestris 

Roesel's Bush Cricket

Xanthogramma pedissequum 

Episyrphus balteatus

Helophilus pendulus

A fine plump female Misumena vatia lay in wait on a Knapweed head and Wolf Spiders scurried around with egg sacs in tow.

Misumena vatia 

Wolf Spider

Bombus lapidarius

you could hear the Gorse popping

Grass Moth (Eucosma cana)

I cut through the dark wood and into the wheat field with its natural margins.  I had sort of guessed from a post by Ranscombe the other day that this is where the Rough Mallow would be thriving and I was not wrong and found a profusion of these small pale pink flowers around the edges along with Medicks, Scarlet Pimpernels and Clovers. A fine patch of Vipers Bugloss was also in bloom and I disturbed three Burnet Companions and Straw Dots from the path edge along with two Sicus ferrugineus.

Red Clover

 Rough Mallow


 Viper's Bugloss

Burnet Companions

Straw Dot

The huge bank of Bramble at the far end of the field was literally humming with Honey Bees along with a good Bumblebee selection that included Bombus hypnorumLasioglossum xanthopus was identified by Tim Strudwick for me. I thought it was Andrena flavipes  I was hoping for Andrena florea but the White Bryony here seems to be over. A couple of pristine Small Tortoiseshells came in and both Xylota segnis and the much larger Xylota sylvarum were padulating their way across sticky leaves. These two species never really feel like Hoverflies.

Lasioglossum xanthopus - thanks Tim!

Andrena sp

Not sure if this is an Andrena 


 Hairy Shieldbug

 Kentish Snail

 Scorpion Fly - they were everywhere

 Small Tortoiseshell

 Xylota segnis

Xylota sylvarum

A tangle of Peacock caterpillars were in the Nettles near the gate along with Nettle Tap moths and a funky Hazel Leaf Roller Beetle was watching the world at eye level as I squeezed my way through without getting Nettled.  Needless to say it was quiet birdwise with just a few singing Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and two Chiffchaffs.

Hazel Leaf Roller - Apoderus coryli 

Hedge Woundwort

Peacock cats

Large White cat

I followed the path down to Birchwood Corner and the fine Medway view before making my way to Sam’s Bench for lunch with my favourite Valley view and a fine spread of Meadow Clary just in front of me.  A group of Fallow Deer briefly appeared but magically disappeared in the meadow below.

Meadow Clary

The meadow and trees above Kitchen Field gave me a few Man Orchids on their last legs and lots of new shocking pink triangles of Pyramidal Orchids poking through the patches of Wild Liquorice. I was delighted to see my first Marbled Whites of the year and it felt like they were all newly emerged being absolutely mint and in fact the Ringlet that I found was almost at the maiden flight point in its life.

Man Orchid

Marbled White

Marbled White


Fairy Flax

Stinking Chamomile

Wild Liquorice

Pyramidal Orchid

Common Blue

Common Blue

Agapanthia villosoviridiscens 

I could not find any Bee Orchids here or Blue Pimpernel as I walked down into the field itself.  There were a scattering of Field Poppies as well as some minute single ones.  The main spread is further down the Valley this year. I spied a patch of Hogweed down in the far corner and diverted that way.

Field Poppies


pink Hogweed

It had warmed up a bit and the air was heady with the rich smell of pigsty and where there is pong there are flies.  There were plenty of Lucilia and a few Sarcs and I counted eight Linnaemyia with their odd antennae (I hope I am right!). 

Linnaemyia sp

Linnaemyia sp

Linnaemyia sp

Lucilia sp

Myathropa florea and Eristalis arbustorum and pertinax were seen and three Cheilosia illustrata but the prize went to a Leucozona laternaria.  I have only seen this distinctive species in the south-west before and was not expecting it here.  I saw two in the end but failed miserably to get any images but was still happy. 

Myathropa florea

Cheilosia illustrata

Four stag Fallow Deer appeared magically in the meadow next door with their new head gear still all soft and velvet covered.  They knew I was there but we kept our respective distances and they carried on feeding.  I could hear a Skylark singing and a male Sparrowhawk erupted from the tree with Blackbirds alarming wildly.

Fallow Deer

I entered the newly rejuvenated Brockles Field and followed the edge to the west finding countless Pyramidal Orchids, some Common Broomrape and a single Bee Orchid.  A tan coloured beetle in a Dog Rose turned out to be an Orchid Beetle whose larvae feed on the roots of certain species.  Rhingia campestris and Volucella bombylans were added to the Hover list and a very large Tachinid may just be a heavy weight female Tachina fera but I have asked for some help.  She was very impressive!  Celypha lacunana was seen in the grasses but my netting skills were to be honest, pants today so I missed a few more.

Common Broomrape

Dog Rose

Orchid Beetle  - Dascillus cervinus

Pyramidal Orchid

Red Soldier Beetles and Oedemera nobilis

Rhingia campestris 

Tachina fera

Tachina fera

Tachina fera or similar

Volucella bombylans

Celypha lacunana

Rock Rose and both Bladder and White Campions were seen and there were a couple of lilac Opium Poppies in bloom.

Opium Poppy

Bladder Campion

Bladder Campion

White Campion

Common Rock Rose

At the bottom of the next field I usually linger at the entrance back into the woods and it was worth the time as usual with Small Heath, Brimstone and Small White seen followed by some more quality time watching the insects come and go on the Brambles and Upright Hedge Parsley.

Both Xylota were seen again along with Cheilosia illustrata, soror and impressa and the gleaming green-bronze of Chloromyia formosa caught the eye too. 

Cheilosia impressa 

Cheilosia soror 

Xylota segnis 

Xylota segnis 

Xylota sylvarum

Chloromyia formosa

There were several presumably Parasitic Wasps with one with very distinctive legs with some almost pale green and others black with a white band. Someone must know what it is!  Blepharipa pratensis was seen again along with another small Tachinid and there were at least three Sawfly species and Tephritis hyoscyami  Picture Wing Flies.

Blepharipa pratensis 

Blepharipa pratensis 



smaller Tachinid 

Tephritis hyoscyami 

Tephritis hyoscyami 

Funky wasp sp

I was particularly pleased to discover the Tumbling Flower Beetles once again with Variimorda villosa briefly on the umbellifers before rolling away if I got too close!

Variimorda villosa

Variimorda villosa

The woodland ride was being patrolled by male Eristalis intricaria with Syrphus and Helophilus in the edges and I found the Bag Worm case of Psyche casta as I walked slowly up through the edge of the pine belt.  The ground in one area was very disturbed and although I am pretty sure that there are no Wild Boar in Ranscombe that is what the disturbance under the pines looked like.

Eristalis intricaria 


Helophilus pendulus

Psyche casta


I carefully made my way up through the Bracken path trying to avoid as much contact as possible to avoid collecting questing Ticks but thankfully only added a Comma in the process. I entered the Cobham Wood section and made my way up to the Darnley Mausoleum seeing three Brown Silver-lines and two Cinnabar moths along with a few more Hovers and Bees.  A Green Woodpecker nest was noisy and I could hear a Whitethroat out on the open area.

Arienella sp

Brown Silver-lines 

Click Beetle

As usual the walk down through the woods from here was peaceful and I did not see another soul (in fact I had only seen two in four hours). Speckled Woods and Red Admiral were seen in sunny spots and the Emperor Oak is looking just grand for a few weeks time and at the last kissing gate I found my Bryony Bees on a nice patch of White Bryony flowering along the fence.

Bryony Bee

Bryony Bee

Speckled Wood


There were Grey Squirrels everywhere – herds of the furry buggers and by the time I got back to the CTRL bridge I had seen 41 on the path in front of me.  There is no way that that is a good sign for any small birds nesting in these woods and also goes to show that at least in this bit of Kent there are still no apex avian predators to control such a population.

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrels and Mistle Thrushes

I finished up with another Bee Orchid and Common Spotted on the bridge itself and the Twayblade was still flowering too with little pink dots of Grass Vetchling magic poking through the herbage.

Bee Orchid 

 Common Spotted Orchids

Grass Vetchling

Pyramidal Orchid

It was good to get back out on the loop but my energy levels are definitely at a low ebb and it will take some time before I am up to walking the sort of mileage I did during my Furlough year.

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